Trade Suitors for Lucroy

By Nathan Petrashek

Jonathan Lucroy isn’t penciled in to start for the National League in this year’s All-Star Game, but it is nonetheless a nice showcase for baseball’s third-best catcher by fWAR (2.4).  In addition to being highly skilled, Lucroy is tremendously affordable and under team control through 2017, so he’s not necessarily a one-shot rental for any team looking to acquire him as the Brewers rebuild.

There was speculation that the Brewers could lock up Lucroy to a long-term contract, but in light of Lucroy’s comments yesterday that there were no ongoing extension talks, that outcome seems unlikely.  Although Lucroy doesn’t have much choice in the matter, he did reaffirm that he wants to play for a contender.  As luck would have it, that’s likely to be the nature of the team to make a play for Lucroy.  The Brewers are, by all accounts, demanding a king’s ransom for the 30-year-old catcher, so lets look at some possible landing spots.

  • Texas Rangers.  This has been the team most connected to Lucroy in the past few days.  That’s no surprise; Houston is hot on the heels of the division-leading Rangers, who are middle-of-the-pack in terms of catcher fWAR and are currently leaning on journeyman Robinson Chirinos behind the plate. The Brewers reportedly had a cadre of scouts recently at the Rangers’ Class A affiliate.  Probably not coincidentally, RHP Dillon Tate, MLB.com‘s #31 prospect, pitched in games on July 5th and 9th.  The Rangers have another top RHP prospect, Luis Ortiz, in AA, but the Brewers will almost certainly check in on Texas’s top prospect, Joey Gallo, an MLB-ready 3B/OF whom the Brewers passed on in the 2012 draft in favor of Victor Roache.
  • Boston Red Sox.  The Brewers have already matched up with the Red Sox once this year, trading IF Aaron Hill for two mid-level Boston prospects.  Boston is just two games back in the AL East, and has received terrible production from their catcher position, which currently consists of 27-year-old Sandy Leon and 35-year-old Ryan Hanigan.  A rotation arm no doubt tops Boston’s want list, but if Boston is unable to improve its starting pitching through the trade market, it just might look to build on its offensive strength by adding Lucroy.  Boston has plenty of highly ranked prospects that might interest the Brewers, including top-tier talent in IFs Yoan Moncada and Rafael Delvers.  If Boston is unwilling to offer up one of those elite prospects, the Brewers might consider RHP Anderson Espinoza (MLB.com’s #34 prospect), an international signee currently pitching in A ball who can hit 100 MPH with his fastball and is developing plus secondary pitches.

*UPDATE: Boston has since traded Espinoza to Oakland for Drew Pomeranz.  The Red Sox have one other top-100 prospect, Andrew Benintendi, but being an OF (a position at which the Brewers are stocked), that may not be enough to move the needle.  One other interesting player is Sam Travis, one of the 1B prospects in baseball.  Travis is currently hitting .272/.332/.434 at AAA Pawtucket.

  • Cleveland Indians.  Despite leading their division, the Indians are dead last in baseball for catcher fWAR (-.9).  The once highly touted Yan Gomes has been trending toward awful for a few years now, and this season he’s slashing just .166/.201/.315.  The Indians’ offense hasn’t been terrible, but Lucroy certainly presents an upgrade at the plate.  The Indians may be even more interested in pairing Lucroy’s elite pitching framing skills with their dominant rotation (Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Tomlin, Bauer).  The top of Cleveland’s farm system is outfielder heavy, a position at which the Brewers already have ample minor-league talent.  But there are some attractive options a bit further down on Cleveland’s prospect list, including the powerful lefthanded firstbaseman Bobby Bradley (MLB.com’s #83 prospect).  The Indians’ system also boasts two high-end lefties pitching in the low minors: Brady Aiken, the unsigned #1 draft pick in 2014, and Justus Sheffield, a 2014 first-rounder.
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Brewers Rumor Roundup

By Nathan Petrashek (@npetrashek)

A lot of Brewers seem likely to find new digs over the next few days, and we’ll be recapping any credible trade rumors here.  Check back often for the latest updates.

Randy Wolf.  The Brewers rotation is going to look a lot different next year.  Many  speculated that Wolf could be moved at the deadline; the only question is, “for what?”  ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Brewers will trade him for nothing, “if you take the money.”  Wolf is earning $9.5M this year and has a club option for next year at $10M with a $1.5M buyout.

Shaun Marcum.  Marcum is still recovering from an injury that has sidelined him since June 14.  While Marcum isn’t going to be traded before Tuesday’s non-waiver deadline, he may be a waiver trade candidate after he returns to action.

***UPDATE***: Adam McCalvey reports (on Twitter) that Marcum’s second bullpen did not go well.

Zack Grienke.  Opposing GM’s have seemingly done a 180 on Greinke in the last week.  After he was skipped in the rotation, execs were quoted as saying they were “concerned,” even going so far as to call him “scary.”  Other big-market execs said they wouldn’t touch Greinke because of his known anxiety issue.  But after Grienke’s heavily scouted seven-inning masterpiece in Philly, he has become the prize of the trade deadline, especially since Cole Hamels is no longer available.  Teams known to be fawning over the righty include the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, and White Sox.  The White Sox are pushing hard, but they don’t appear to have the pieces necessary to land Greinke; several league sources have reported that Doug Melvin’s asking price is astronomical and includes a top shortstop prospect.  The Braves dropped out after refusing to part with top pitching prospect Julio Teheran, as did the Orioles after Melvin suggested Manny Machado.  At this point, it looks to be a two-way battle between the Rangers and the Angels, though Texas appears to be the frontronner and is presumably very motivated after losing the last two world series.  Still, their top prospect, shorstop Jurickson Profar, is reportedly off the table, even though the Brewers (and other teams) are no doubt asking about him. The Angels don’t seem too confident in their chances to land Greinke.

***UPDATE***: Greinke was traded to the Angels late Friday for a package that includes three of the Angels’ top-10 prospects: SS Jean Segura (#2), RHP Ariel Pena (#9), and RHP Johnny Hellweg (#4).  The Rangers apparently didn’t come close to that offer, refusing to trade Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, or even Martin Perez.  In fact, the Rangers’ best offer appears to have been IF Leurys Garcia, LHP Chad Bell, and RHP Justin Grimm; a pittance compared to what the Brewers ultimately wound up with, if I may offer my editorial opinion.  The Angels’ decision to include Pena led Doug Melvin to pull the trigger, and the Angels now have perhaps the best rotation in baseball.  You can read our own Ryan Smith’s analysis of the trade here.

Francisco Rodriguez.  K-Rod was looking like a sure candidate to be dealt at the trade deadline, but then he became the closer.  Over the last week, he’s allowed 7 earned runs over 3.1 innings of work, with 7 walks against just 4 strikeouts.  The Giants were reportedly in on him until they watched him pitch.  K-Rod apparently alienated the Brewers, too, as Ron Roenicke announced the team would deploy a closer-by-committee.

George Kottaras.  Kottaras was designated for assignment yesterday, a formality designed to open up a roster spot for returning catcher Jonathan Lucroy.  Doug Melvin is reportedly attempting to find a new big-league home for the backup catcher; Kottaras was told to stay in Milwaukee while Melvin shopped him around.

***UPDATE***: The Brewers have dealt the lefty catcher to the Oakland A’s, according to Tom Haudricourt.  The A’s apparently have to make a corresponding roster move, and the deal will not be announced, nor will we know who the Brewers are receiving, until Sunday.  You can read Ryan Smith’s take on George Kottaras’s move here.

Nyjer Morgan.  Morgan was a great pickup last year, but this year has been a struggle for the lefthanded hitter; he’s batting just .228/.299/.274.  The Brewers would love to move his $2.35M salary, especially with Carlos Gomez playing so well, but there don’t appear to be many suitors right now.

Kameron Loe.  Loe may be the only Brewers reliever to be moved before the trade deadline.  After a two-inning, three-strikeout scoreless showing on Thursday, Loe should draw some interest from teams looking for bullpen help (i.e. Cincinatti Reds, Rangers, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, etc.).  Loe has allowed just two runs over his last nine outings.

Manny Parra.  Manny Parra, like Rodriguez, was a great trade candidate until this week.  With plenty of scouts in attendance in Philly, Parra walked three on Tuesday and gave up four earned runs.  That came on the heels of another three-walk performance the day earlier.  It’s a shame, because Parra had pitched well through July up until that point (7.1 ip, 2 bb, 10 k, 1.23 era).  Nothing simmering on the trade front here.

***UPDATE***: According to CBS’s Danny Knobler (via Twitter), the Brewers have received some inquiries about Parra, but may keep him and re-convert him into a starter again.  That didn’t end well the first time.  Parra as a starter is 23-26 with a 5.44 era, 1.692 whip, and 1.71 k/bb ratio.  As a reliever, he has a 3.82 era, 1.406 whip, and 2.62 k/bb.

Corey Hart.  The Brewers are listening on Hart, but would have to be “bowled over” by the offer to move him, reports Tom Haudricourt.  Still, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Hart included in the Greinke deal if it nets the Brewers a top shortstop and pitching prospect.

Aramis Ramirez.  Like Hart, the Brewers are listening, but the price is high.  The team is not motivated to sell simply to rid their books of the $16M Ramirez is due in 2014 (he’ll earn $10M next season, too).  Early reports linked the Dodgers to Ramirez, but they appear to have satisfied their desire for a bat with Hanley Ramirez.

Jose Veras.  No doubt the Brewers would love to unload Veras and his 1.72 WHIP, but I can’t imagine a contender that would want to play with that kind of fire.  By the same token, I couldn’t figure out why the Brewers would want to play with that kind of fire back in December.  Veras has the third-most walks among MLB relievers and I can’t see him going anywhere.  K-Rod is tied for fourth, incidentally.

Brewers Keep Making Moves; Trade Kottaras to Oakland

By: Ryan Smith (@ryanhenrysmith2)

And just like that, the Brewers have continued in their role as a trade deadline seller.

Recent reports state that the Brewers have come to an agreement to send catcher George Kottaras to Oakland. Kottaras had been recently designated for assignment (DFA) because of the emergence of Martin Maldonado and the return of The Jonathan Lucroy.

Sorry, ladies: Gorgeous George is heading to Oakland.

A career backup, Kottaras became a fan favorite in Milwaukee this year with his late-game heroics, coming through multiple times to help the Brewers claim victories. His ability to come through in clutch situations even created a buzz around Miller Park and on Twitter, with the verb “Kottaras” being introduced into our lexicon. After a game-winning hit, some fans could be heard saying “You’ve been Kottarased!”

As Kottaras came back to Earth after his hot start to the season, Lucroy started to dominate on a nightly basis. When Lucroy broke his hand, many thought it would be a great opportunity for Kottaras to showcase what he brings to the team. But Kottaras ran into an injury bug as well, and Martin Maldonado was called up. From there, Maldonado impressed everyone with his ability to handle the bat while also providing solid defense from the catcher position. It was only a matter of time before Lucroy would return from his injury, and it became apparent that Kottaras was going to be the odd man out.

When he was DFA, Kottaras was told to remain in Milwaukee, as GM Doug Melvin planned on trying to trade the catcher to another team so he could remain in the majors. Oakland, needing help at the catcher position and currently only 4.5 games behind the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, proved to be the destination Melvin was looking for.

As the backup catcher for Milwaukee over the last three seasons, Kottaras appeared in 174 games, hitting 17 homeruns with 55 runs batted in and 49 runs scored. Over the last few years, Kottaras received a majority of his playing time serving as Randy Wolf’s personal catcher, guaranteeing Kottaras a start every fifth game. In 49 games last season, Kottaras really showed what he could do by producing a line of .252/.311/.459. This season, his numbers dropped a bit, with a line of .209/.409/.360, which is still an upgrade over what Oakland catchers have combined to do on the year (.198/.250/.269). Oakland’s primary catcher, Kurt Suzuki, bats right-handed, so the left-handed Kottaras could create a natural platoon with him.

As of right now, there has been no report as to what Milwaukee will receive in exchange for Kottaras, and Melvin has stated that he doesn’t believe the deal will be finalized until Sunday. Considering Kottaras is a 29-year-old career backup who was recently DFA, I would not expect much in return. The Brewers probably will receive a low-level project prospect or two. This trade was most likely more about Doug Melvin doing Kottaras a favor by sending him to a team that will keep him in the majors.

Check back with Cream City Cables as the Brewers continue to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline.

Immediate Analysis of the Zack Greinke Trade

By: Ryan Smith

It finally happened.

Farewell, Zack Greinke. We will certainly miss you.

After weeks of speculation, including some pretty crazy rumors over the last few days, the Milwaukee Brewers finally traded Zack Greinke.

After watching his stock take a hit with a rough July start followed by a mysterious “shutdown” by Manager Ron Roenicke, the enigmatic right-hander quieted his critics with a truly dominant performance on Tuesday night.

Yes, in only 87 pitches, Greinke put to rest any concerns about his health and his ability, instead causing opposing scouts and GMs to bull rush Doug Melvin’s office door.

The winning bid came from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a team that beat out AL West rival Texas for the services of Mr. Greinke.

With the move Greinke will join an Angels rotation that already includes Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Dan Haren, creating a foursome as dangerous as any in Major League Baseball.

In return, the Brewers will receive three of the Angels top ten organizational prospects, including current top-prospect Jean Segura. Along with Segura, Milwaukee will also receive RHP John Hellweg and RHP Ariel Pena.

SS Jean Segura

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article looking at possible trade packages that Melvin would consider in a trade for Greinke. Then, I wrote that a package centered around Segura and Hellweg would have to be considered. Landing another one of Los Angeles’s top prospects apparently put the deal over the top for Melvin, who was using the rivalry between the Angels and the Rangers to up the asking price for the former Cy Young winner.

There were reports that Melvin was looking to land a top shortstop prospect in any deal involving Greinke, and Segura fits that bill. Segura had recently been called up to the big league club for the Angels, but he only appeared in one game at that level. In 94 AA games this season, Segura produced a line of .292/.346/.404 with 7 homeruns and 50 runs scored to go along with 33 stolen bases. While he would be an immediate upgrade over the current shortstop situation in Milwaukee, I would assume the organization would start with at AA Huntsville, at least for a few weeks.

RHP John Hellweg

Hellweg and Pena also spent all of this season thus far in AA. Hellweg started 21 games, compiling a 5-10 record with a 3.38 ERA, walking 60 while striking out 88. In his first full season as a starter, Hellweg was producing a 6.62 K/9, but he also had a 4.51 BB/9, showing once again that his biggest concern is his command. Standing at 6’9”, Hellweg has some natural downhill plane on his powerful fastball, which typically sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. While he’s still a work in progress – especially with his secondary pitches – Hellweg still represents a welcome addition to the Milwaukee farm system.

RHP Ariel Pena

In 19 starts this season, Pena was 6-6 with a 2.99 ERA, walking 42 while striking out 111. Pena has some more success with the command of his pitches, resulting in a 3.31 BB/9 and an 8.74 K/9. Pena also has a lively fastball, which is reported to sit around 95 MPH with some movement. His slider is also said to be a hard slider that tends to fall off the table, allowing it to miss some bats. His changeup will need some work, as it can tend to be a BP-fastball if he doesn’t control it well. While Pena’s ceiling doesn’t appear to be as high as Hellweg’s, he seems to have a higher floor, especially considering his ability to control his premium pitches at this point in his career.

Overall, I think GM Doug Melvin did what we wanted him to do – he got the best possible return that he could for Greinke. Texas had already stated that top-prospect SS Jurickson Profar was off-limits, and they recently made it clear that 3B Mike Olt would not be available for a two-month rental. Instead of playing a dangerous waiting game with Texas, he used their interest to get the Angels to give up three actual prospects in order to acquire Greinke. As I said before, Segura could step into the everyday lineup for Milwaukee today and be an immediate upgrade, providing Melvin with the shortstop-of-the-future that he was looking for. Hellweg and Pena give the Brewers two very talented arms to work with, and you can never have enough pitching in baseball.

To Zack Greinke, I say this: Good luck. It was a blast having you in Milwaukee.

To Doug Melvin, I say this: Good job. You did what you had to do and brought back a real package that could help this team in the long run.

To the newest Milwaukee Brewers, I say this: Welcome! You’re going to love it here. I hope you like beer.

Who am I kidding – who doesn’t like beer?

History in the Making?

By: Ryan Smith

I remember watching Monday’s game against the Phillies fearing that a win would once again convince GM Doug Melvin that this year’s Milwaukee Brewers could be contenders. It didn’t matter that the Phillies currently reside in the cellar of the National League East; a win against Roy Halladay could have been just the type of win that Melvin and Manager Ron Roenicke would have used to say that the team was still in it, even though the Brewers just got swept in their “do-or-die” series over the weekend.

Then Roenicke went to the bullpen.

Roenicke has had to make too many trips to the mound this year because the relievers have not done their jobs.

You know the rest. One lead blown. Then another. Then another. With the bullpen for this year’s Milwaukee Brewers, no lead is safe.

After Tuesday’s debacle of a bullpen appearance, many Brewers fans started flooding Twitter and Facebook with claims that this had to be the worst bullpen ever.

This got me to thinking: where exactly does this bullpen rank among other historically bad bullpens?

There’s not really one stat that you can look at to figure this out. Some people would argue that Blown Saves would be the place to start, but that isn’t fair to the terrible bullpens on terrible teams. It also doesn’t take a look at the entire picture because the Save didn’t even become an official stat until 1969. You could look at ERA, but that is oftentimes quite dependent on team defense as well as pitcher performance. I’m sure most Brewer fans would make a case for BB/9 because that seems to be the Achilles heel for this year’s squad.

So since there’s no single stat to tell the story, I decided to look at all of them.

Let’s start by looking at Blown Saves. The Major League record for Blown Saves in an entire season is 34 by the 2004 Colorado Rockies, followed by the 2002 Texas Rangers with 33. As of right now, the Brewers have 18 official Blown Saves on the season, three behind this year’s Rockies. The Crew is on pace for 30 Blown Saves over the span of 162 games, which would be tied for seventh all-time. So in the Blown Saves category, the Brewers are up there, but they are not the worst bullpen ever.

Next, I had to take a look at walks and BB/9 because it seems like Milwaukee relievers can’t take the mound without issuing a free pass or three. On the year, Milwaukee relievers have issued 145 walks, which is the third-highest total in baseball. All-time, the most walks ever issued by a bullpen in a season was 347 by the 1996 Detroit Tigers, with the 2000 Pittsburgh Pirates coming in second with 343. in case you were wondering, the 2012 Brewers are on pace for roughly 242 walks, which wouldn’t even be in the top-30 for most walks ever in a season.

If I look at BB/9, I have to adjust what I’m looking at a bit. If you go all the way back to 1871, the 1908 Brooklyn Superbas (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) had a 108.00 BB/9. Of course, if you look closer, you’ll see that the Brooklyn Superbas only had one pitcher make a relief appearance. That pitcher was Pembroke Finlayson, and he walked four batters in one-third of an inning.

Manny Parra is just one of the guys who issues far too many walks.

If you don’t go back any further than 1970, you would find the 1971 Chicago White Sox with a 6.89 BB/9 and the 2000 Pirates with a 5.92 BB/9. Right now, the Brewers have a 4.39 BB/9, which is the second-highest mark in the league behind the Cubs at 5.00 BB/9. So you can see that, while they are one of the worst bullpens this season when it comes to issuing walks, they are nowhere near the worst bullpen ever in this area.

Finally, I had to look at ERA and True Runs Allowed (tERA) to gauge where this Brewers bullpen ranks among the most ineffective units in the history of the game. This year, the Brewers have the third-worst bullpen ERA in the majors at 4.76. Once again, I had to limit my research to no later than 1970 because the highest 100 ERAs of all-time all occurred before 1970. Using a more modern-day comparison, the 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays had a 6.16 bullpen ERA, which easily beat out the ’96 Tigers (5.97). Once again, this year’s Brewers bullpen is bad, but they are not historically bad when it comes to ERA.

The sample-size for tERA is even smaller because this stat wasn’t even calculated until 2002. Even with this smaller window, you can see that Milwaukee’s tERA of 4.79 is only the fourth-worst mark in baseball in 2012. Historically, the ’12 Crew is no match for the Rockies of 2003 (6.37) and ’02 (6.32).

I do want to point out that at no point during this article was I defending the performance of the Brewers bullpen this year. I spent a good chunk of the early months of the season coming to the defense of John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez, telling fans to give them time, to have faith.

All too often, Roenicke finds himself without the answers during postgame press conferences.

And now, here I am, feeling like a damn fool.

The harsh truth is that we’re more than likely stuck with these guys for the rest of the season. Whatever trade value Rodriguez had going into this last series was pretty much left for dead in Philadelphia. John Axford has looked better as of late, but I’ll believe he’s figured it out when I see it. Manny Parra can’t find a strike zone big enough to hit consistently. Hell, I’m actually happy when Roenicke calls Livan Hernandez on in relief. Frankly, it’s not pretty out there.

The entire purpose of this article was to point out that, while 2012 has been a frustrating year for the Brewers bullpen, it has not been the worst season ever. Maybe Brewers fans were just spoiled by the 2011 ‘pen that always seemed to come through. LaTroy Hawkins, Takashi Saito, and Rodriguez locked down innings six through eight, and we all know how dominant Axford was last season. This year has just been one of those years where anything that can go wrong will go wrong. And it seems that much worse after a year of complete domination.

But let’s slow down the talk of the 2012 Milwaukee bullpen being the worst bullpen ever. Those other squads have quite a lead on our guys.

Then again, if there’s one thing these guys can consistently do, it’s make a lead disappear.

Examining the Zack Greinke Trade Market

By: Ryan Smith

Now that the All-Star Game has come and gone, it’s time to get back to the grind for the Milwaukee Brewers.

For the players, that means doing whatever they can to get into the mix for the NL Central race, or at least positioning themselves to make a run at one of the Wild Card spots.

As the trade deadline approaches, Doug Melvin faces the unenviable task of deciding whether or not to trade Zack Greinke.

For Doug Melvin, the grind is a completely different animal. For Doug Melvin, the All-Star Game provided no such break. Instead, while Ryan Braun was participating in the All-Star Game and other players were using the four-day break to spend time with their families, Doug Melvin was still wrestling with one of the biggest questions in Major League Baseball right now:

Should the Milwaukee Brewers trade Zack Greinke?

Personally, I am torn on this subject. The diehard fan in me wants to see Zack Greinke pitch as many games as possible in a Milwaukee uniform. That part of me would love to see him stay with the team through the rest of this season and lead us into the playoffs.

But then there’s the realistic side of me. As much as I would love to see Greinke remain a Brewer for the rest of 2012, I have admitted before that I think the smartest move would be to trade the star right-hander.

Now, as recently as today, there have been some rumors that Milwaukee could surprise many baseball experts and sign Greinke to an extension before he hits free agency this offseason. Jon Heyman of CBS reported that the Brewers are ready to offer Greinke a 5-year, $100 million deal to stay in Milwaukee beyond 2012. But in his report, Heyman quotes Doug Melvin as saying that “players at that level who get this close to free agency do tend to test the market.”

So while the Brewers are willing to make one final push at keeping Greinke, it seems more than likely that the front office could move him to a contender.

Teams will be lining up for the services of the former Cy Young winner.

With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at what the Brewers could be looking at as far as prospects from some interested teams. Technically, you could say that any team would be interested in acquiring a top-of-the-rotation arm like Greinke. But I thought I’d focus on a few teams that have been reported multiple times as having interest in meeting Milwaukee’s demands for Greinke: the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Angels, the Texas Rangers, and the Baltimore Orioles.

While I plan on mentioning a few potential prospects that could join the Milwaukee organization from each of these teams, it is important to note that I’m not saying we would need to receive all of these players to make the trade happen. I also am not placing a ton of weight on being position-specific when it comes to these prospects. Yes, it would be nice to add another arm to our farm system or potentially find our shortstop of the future, but when trading for top-tier prospects, you get whatever talent you can. If you have a surplus of talent at one position, then you can figure it out when you get there. Frankly, too much talent is a wonderful problem to have.

In breaking down these potential trade partners, I thought I’d rank them based on which team I thought could offer the best realistic package to Milwaukee for Greinke. Without further ado, let’s start off with…

#4 – Baltimore Orioles

Coming into the season, not many people expected Baltimore to potentially compete for any sort of playoff spot. Even after they started out 29-17, most experts figured they would come back down to Earth. While they did start to struggle a little more as the season went on, they still find themselves at 45-40, well in the thick of the American League Wild Card race. When I look at this Orioles team, I can’t help but feel a certain familiarity. Baltimore is an organization with a relatively new and impressive ballpark, a loyal fan base, and a long, recent history of losing. Sounds a lot like the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers.

In 2008, desperate to make the playoffs for the first time in 26 years, Milwaukee traded away multiple prospects – including the organization’s top prospect in Matt LaPorta – to add CC Sabathia to the top of our rotation. The rest is history.

Could Zack Greinke be Baltimore’s Sabathia?

Unlike Milwaukee in 2008, I don’t think there’s any chance that Baltimore parts with either of its top prospects, RHP Dylan Bundy and SS Manny Machado. ESPN’s Keith Law has those two guys and the second-and-third overall prospects in all of baseball. While I’d love to land one of those guys in a Greinke trade, I said earlier that I wanted these to be realistic trade scenarios.

However, one of the perks of being one of the league’s worst teams over the last decade is that you have the chance to acquire a lot of talent in the draft. While Bundy and Machado are all but untouchable, I think Doug Melvin would at least have to listen to an offer that included 2B/3B Jonathan Schoop. Schoop probably won’t be a defensive star in the league, but he does have the arm to play third. More importantly, his bat certainly profiles there. The guy can flat-out hit. Not only that, but he has also shown the ability to make adjustments when he has been promoted to a more challenging level. 1B/3B Nick Delmonico would also be a decent player to acquire, though he is not on the same level as Schoop. As far as pitching is concerned, I would like to see the Brewers obtain either LHP Eduardo Rodriguez or RHP Parker Bridwell.

Like I said, Baltimore has talent in their farm system. But if Schoop isn’t part of any deal, Doug Melvin should just hang up.

Ideal Potential Deal: Greinke for 2B/3B Jonathan Schoop, LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, multiple other minor league prospects

#3 – Los Angeles Angels

The Angels’ farm system graduated its top prospect this season when Mike Trout was promoted to the big league club. All he’s done since then is make the All-Star Game and head to the front of the line for the AL MVP.

With Trout out of the system, 2B/SS Jean Segura becomes the top prospect that the Angels have to offer. In AA this season, Segura has produced a .286/.332/.398 line. He’s not going to tear the cover off the ball, but he is a hitter who has the ability to spray line drives all over the field while providing solid defense up the middle.

RHP Garrett Richards has split his time this year between AAA and the big leagues. He hasn’t necessarily had the success you’d like to see, struggling with his location (4.71 BB/9) at times. Still, he’s a good player with a fastball that stays 94-98 late into games. RHP John Hellweg is another pitcher with a powerful fastball, but he also struggles with his command (4.88 BB/9). However, he’s only in AA and has some time to work on those command issues.

Ideal Potential Deal: Greinke for 2B/SS Jean Segura, RHP John Hellweg, multiple other minor league prospects

#2 – Atlanta Braves

The rest of the teams on this list are not in the same boat as Baltimore. All three of these teams have had recent success. They aren’t going to be making a deal for Greinke just to make the playoffs. If these teams try to acquire the right-hander, it is because they think he could be the final piece to their World Series puzzle. Atlanta is a team that almost needs to do something because the division title is well within their reach. Philadelphia has fallen off drastically, Miami lacks consistency, New York seems to be winning with two players (Dickey and Wright) doing most of the work, and Washington will soon be faced with an innings limit on their ace.

If Atlanta ends up being the team to land Greinke, Milwaukee should expect to receive multiple pitching prospects in return. Atlanta seems to have quite a bit of pitching talent in their system, while they seem to lack position players that can hit consistently.

Atlanta’s top prospect, RHP Julio Teheran, has had some difficulties this season with the long-ball (1.68 HR/9), but his xFIP of 3.47 suggests that the rest of his stuff has been pretty effective. He’s only 21 and playing in AAA, and he has a decent fastball-changeup combo that he can throw for strikes.

After Teheran, there is a bit of a drop-off. Arodys Vizcaino would have been a guy to target, but he underwent Tommy John Surgery in March. Randall Delgado is an arm that would be nice to add to your system, but he has been pitching at the major league level this season and hasn’t exactly been blowing anyone away, which leads me to believe he might be a bullpen arm waiting to happen. Christian Bethancourt might be the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues. He calls a good game and has the arm to shut down any team’s running game. I’m not sure if Atlanta would part with him, but I wouldn’t blame Melvin for holding out for both Teheren and Bethancourt. After all, Greinke is the best arm on the market.

Ideal Potential Deal: Greinke for RHP Julio Teheren and C Christian Bethancourt

#1 – Texas Rangers

I’ll admit that the Atlanta deal would be one I could live with. But I’ve been saying for quite some time now that if we are going to trade Greinke, I want Texas to be on the receiving end. Texas is in a unique situation because they have appeared in the World Series the last two seasons while still producing one of the top farm systems in Major League Baseball. In fact, Keith Law ranked the Rangers as having the seventh-best farm system in all of baseball.

Making it to two straight World Series is pretty impressive, but the Rangers failed to win it all each year. They also watched their top pitchers in each season (Cliff Lee in ’10, C.J. Wilson in ’11) walk away at season’s end. They added Yu Darvish to the top of their rotation before the start of the season, and then they signed Roy Oswalt to strengthen that rotation. Still, finding a way to acquire Greinke’s arm could certainly put them in the driver’s seat to be the AL’s World Series representative for the third consecutive year.

I mentioned earlier that Baltimore had two of the top three prospects in all of baseball. Texas has the other. SS Jurickson Profar is everything you’d want in a baseball player. He hits for average, hits for some power, plays excellent defense, and keeps improving even as he reaches more challenging levels. Profar would be even more hands-off than either of Baltimore’s top prospects.

Now, I know this isn’t likely because they are using him this season, but wouldn’t Profar’s excellence make current SS Elvis Andrus an interesting trade chip? Andrus is an excellent defender who also seems to be able to hit for a consistent average. I know I said that position wouldn’t play a role in these scenarios, but the Brewers certainly lack that shortstop of the future. Hell, the Brewers lack a shortstop of the present. Andrus would be a nice find for Milwaukee.

As far as other prospects go, I’ve been a fan of 3B Mike Olt for the last year or so. He’s a slick-fielding third baseman who can swing the bat as well. This year in AA, he’s produced a line of .292/.403/.574. Sound like a nice guy to add to Milwaukee’s system? I thought so.

As far as pitching is concerned, Texas did promote LHP Martin Perez up from AAA this year, but he’d still be a nice guy to add that could help fill the spot Greinke would leave behind. RHP Neil Ramirez would be another guy that would add some depth and talent to our farm system. But the pitcher I would most like to snag in a Greinke deal would be RHP Cody Buckel. He just turned 20 this year and he really seems to be figuring it out. He seems to be striking guys out (7.25 K/9) while not allowing the long ball (0.81 HR/9) in AA.

Ideal Potential Deal: Greinke for SS Elvis Andrus, 3B Mike Olt, and RHP Cody Buckel

Maybe I’m aiming too high with that last deal. Maybe Texas wouldn’t give up all of that for a two or three month rental of Greinke.

Then again, maybe getting to the World Series isn’t enough for this team. Maybe getting there two years in a row only to walk away empty-handed has pushed them to a point where they are willing to sacrifice some of their future talent to win it all now.

And Zack Greinke could certainly help them win it all now.

Yes, it would be painful to see Greinke go. But at the same time, I hated seeing Prince Fielder leave. I hated the fact that we got a late first-round draft pick in return for him.

If Greinke is going to go, let’s make the most of it. Let’s restock our farm system.

Instead of letting the franchise start a freefall, let’s set it up for a quick rebound.

Wheel of Fielder

By Nathan Petrashek

It’s game show time here at Cream City Cables, and here’s today’s contestant, Prince Fielder.  Step right up, Prince, spin the wheel, and let’s see where your baseball destiny lies!

Texas Rangers.  I’m sorry, Prince, today just isn’t your day.  You see, while the Rangers could certainly use a power-hitting 1B or DH (Mitch Moreland and Michael Young, respectively, will probably fill those roles), today the Rangers announced that they had signed young Japanese righty Yu Darvish for $112MM ($52MM for negotiating rights plus a 6-year, $60MM contract).  Rangers GM Josh Daniels was reportedly “cornered” after the press conference, whereupon he announced that a Fielder deal was “unlikely,” adding, “I don’t expect we’ll do anything really big the rest of the winter.”

Seattle Mariners.  If you wish, you can reunite here with Jack Zduriencik, the man responsible for your drafting way back in 2002.  Unfortunately, those memories of past greatness are probably all you’ll accumulate in Seattle, as the team doesn’t look poised for competition for quite some time with the powerhouse Rangers and Angels in their division.  And not only that, the Mariners are said to have money limits (that’s code for “We can’t afford you”), so you’ll have to take less dough to not win.  Doesn’t sound like Charlie Sheen would be a fan of this arrangement.

Chicago Cubs.  I’m sure you weren’t thrilled to see Theo Epstein’s blockbuster trade involving future 1B Anthony Rizzo.  After all, teams don’t usually trade for an major-league ready first baseman prospect just so they can go out and sign a monster deal with a slugger at the same position.  Sure, the Cubs might be interested at the right price.  But then again, you’d have a lot of suitors if you lowered your demands.

Washington Nationals.  Would you like to buy a “W?”  Washington seems like a good fit:  they’re interested, their close to contending in the NL East, and they’re probably the only team that loves your agent (and by throwing oodles of cash at his clients, I’m sure the feeling is mutual). But word is they only want to go six years, possibly seven, a few shy of what you were looking for.  And what would Washington be without a little political intrigue?  The Nationals were closely watching the Darvish deal; now that another suitor has dropped out, the Nats know they hold all the cards.  Prepare for a tough negotiation here, Prince.

***

Well, Prince, the wheel is just about done spinning and the big black tile is headed your way.  You could have solved the puzzle; the Brewers dangled that 6-year, $120 million contract in front of you a few years ago, but you didn’t want any part of that.  And who could blame you; that $200 million space seemed so big, just tempting you to spin again.  But now that the  megadeal contract you’ve not-so-subtly yearned for (Remember when you changed your at-bat music to Pink Floyd’s “Money?”) doesn’t seem to be materializing, if you could do it all over again, would you trade the comfort the Brewers offered for this agonizing waiting game?